Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol is a crime that is taken very seriously in Arizona. If you get convicted of a DUI, you can face penalties that have the power to change your life. One of the methods that law enforcement officers use to discourage drunk driving and screen for intoxicated drivers is sobriety checkpoints.
What Is a DUI Checkpoint?
A DUI checkpoint is a temporary station that is set up by the police to check motorists driving through for signs of intoxication. DUI checkpoints create roadblocks, making it mandatory for any driver who attempts to pass through to stop and complete the checkpoint. The goals of a DUI sobriety checkpoint are to search for drunk drivers and potentially make an arrest if anyone appears to be intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.
Sobriety checkpoints are often set up in times and places where there is a higher likelihood of impaired driving, such as outside of a concert venue or event. If a driver chooses not to stop and attempts to go through the checkpoint or turns around to avoid it, the police may send out a “chase vehicle” to follow the driver. The officer may then stop the driver for a minor traffic infraction – giving the officer the opportunity to check for signs of intoxication and potentially make a DUI arrest.
Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in Arizona?
Yes, within certain parameters. Although DUI checkpoints have been banned in some states, the Arizona Supreme Court has upheld their legality as long as the police follow specific procedures. DUI sobriety checkpoints in Arizona must fulfill specific requirements to be legal and valid, including:
- Putting out a public notice of the DUI checkpoint before setting it up. Law enforcement must notify the public of the checkpoint via websites, newspapers, television or social media.
- Clearly marking where a DUI checkpoint is being set up. The public and motor vehicle drivers should be able to easily see where the checkpoint is.
- Having a plan in place for who will be randomly selected to stop at the checkpoint to keep things fair. An example of an acceptable rule is to stop every fifth driver.
If all of the requirements are not met at a DUI checkpoint, any arrest made or alleged evidence of DUI collected at the checkpoint may be ruled inadmissible in a court of law. If there is evidence that officers were selecting people to stop based on race, for example, this is illegal profiling and could be used as a defense to a DUI arrest.
What to Do at a DUI Sobriety Checkpoint
When approaching a DUI checkpoint in Arizona, drive slowly and smoothly. Stay calm and comply with the instructions given by law enforcement officers. You may or may not be stopped by an officer based on the system in place for pulling drivers over at the checkpoint. If you are stopped, here’s what to expect:
- A police officer will ask to see your driver’s license, registration, and vehicle insurance information.
- While you are answering questions, the officer will be looking for signs of intoxication, such as the smell of alcohol, nervousness, or bloodshot eyes.
- If the police officer believes you are showing signs of impairment, you will be asked to pull your vehicle to the side so that a sobriety test can be performed.
You legally do not have to comply with a request for a field sobriety test in Arizona. You must, however, take a breathalyzer test or else automatically lose your driver’s license for one year, (even if you were not intoxicated). Based on the results of a sobriety test or the officer’s observations, you may be arrested for an alleged DUI. If this happens, contact a DUI defense attorney in Arizona immediately for assistance.